Sputnik Diner

Publisher: Vintage Canada
From an award-winning writer reminiscent of Richard Russo and Russell Banks: get ready for a heady and heartbreaking stay in Nanticoke, home of the Sputnik Diner.

Travelling on Highway 3, along the upper lip of Lake Erie and through a moustache of tobacco fields and sky, we arrive in Nanticoke, Ontario. At the heart of the town is the Sputnik Diner, a smoky grill where the jukebox whirs out an ever-changing soundtrack. Navigating their way through the lies and sexual betrayals are Grace, waitress and self-defeating artist; Buzz, who offers the cook's eye view of the eccentric patrons and staff; and Marcel, the gruff French-Canadian owner who doles out hilarious malapropisms and his own peculiar brand of hospitality.

In muscular prose, Maddocks traces the lives of flawed, gutsy, and utterly loveable characters: an immigrant family from Wales, struggling to find their place in the ragged, darkly absurd world of tobacco-belt Ontario; two young brothers who steal the family car and try to come to grips with their father's cancer out on the dinosaur mini-putt course in the pouring rain; and Grace, who seeks out her birth parents only to confront the dizzying epiphanies of that momentous discovery. There are others too, whose stalled dreams, gritty hopes and humour spark through the Sputnik Diner universe.

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Plane People

In the summer of 1981, two months before my family landed here, a man fell from the sky over Nanticoke and hit the roof of the mall seconds before his parachute blossomed out of his pack like a red and white silk handkerchief. The rest of him pollinated the employees’ parking lot–A&P...
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PRAISE FOR

“Accurate, funny and vivid, Sputnik Diner is full of big truths about mid-size Canadian life. Rick Maddocks knows his world well, and delivers it. This is an impressive debut.” – Michael Winter

“[An] impressive talent…. Like Alice Munro, whose works share the common terrain of late-20th-century Ontario, Maddocks’ skill lies in turning out vivid and compelling characters. [His] detailed observations speak of a warm affection for the mess of family life and the rhythms of small town living.” – Quill & Quire

Sputnik Diner is a bona fide gem – a deeply felt suite of short stories that chronicle a Welsh family’s dislocating arrival into the strange new world of a small Ontario town. Maddocks is a calmly lyrical talent.” – Vancouver Magazine

“Terrific…. Subtly portrayed…. Throughout Maddocks’s work, there are strong echoes of dirty-realist American writers like Tobias Wolff and Frederick Barthelme. Like them, he’s at his best when he keeps his writing lean and unsentimental…. Maddocks strikes [many] notes of grace throughout Sputnik Diner. While things don't turn out so well for the folks in Nanticoke, there's something beautiful in the way they fall out of the sky.” – The Globe and Mail

“Maddocks eschews showy writer’s tools, … relying instead on a painter's eye for detail and colour. The writing appeals to the reader's visual imagination and makes for effortless reading; there are times when Maddocks achieves that most prized of writing moments -- the transparent text, when the gap between reader and story seems to disappear. When Maddocks does use one of his rare metaphors, they are striking without being strained…. Maddocks [is] an exciting new talent…. His Nanticoke, like Margaret Laurence's Manawaka or David Adams Richards' Miramichi, [may one day] become a place with which all literate Canadians are, or at least should be, familiar.” –National Post

“Plain talk about plain people. That’s what Rick Maddocks delivers in this superb collection…. The detail is achingly accurate…. Told…with matter-of-fact intensity…. His prose is clean and lean and won’t let go of you once it grabs you. One of the best books of the year.” – NOW magazine

"[This] is a portrait of a strnage, often ugly place that is — disturbingly enough — also perfectly recognizable as Canadian…Folks are mostly unhappy in Nanticoke, but the lessons of the Sputnik Diner are interesting ones. Finally, it seems a shame to leave.” – Valerie Compton, Calgary Herald

“The quirky humour in Sputnik Diner…makes the book an enjoyable read…Maddocks’s attention to detail leaves a powerful impression upon the reader.” – Kingston Whig-Standard

“Rick Maddocks proves himself the master of the novella, on the first try…In Sputnik Diner, Rick Maddocks…create[s] a world that is satisfying, surprising and full.” – Annabel Lyon, Vancouver Sun

“[A] fine debut collection of short stories…the two things a young writer really needs are the two things that can’t be taught — curiosity and compassion. In his first book, Rick Maddocks proves he has plenty of both.” – Montreal Gazette